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Teens bring home feeling of unity from World Youth Day

| Wednesday, July 31, 2002

EAST FRANKLIN - From a massive, rain-soaked airport base outside of Toronto, Canada, siblings Bobby and Faith Galonski said they saw a unity of faith like never before. They were among some 800,000 people attending last Sunday's Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, which capped off the 10-day international gathering known as the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day.

"I felt that everyone was unified there, it wasn't like we were separated by nationalities, it was just one big group of Catholics," said Bobby, 18, a recent Kittanning High School graduate who will attend Penn State New Kensington Campus in the fall.

The event included young Catholics from as far away as Italy, France, Portugal and Mexico.

Along with her brother, Faith, a 16-year-old KHS junior, attended the event with four other members of the youth group at St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Kittanning: Ryan O'Hare, Matt Rupert, Mary Gallagher and Leanne Micsky.

"The most amazing thing was everyone coming together to be one church, and it didn't matter where you were from, everyone was there for the same reason and it felt like everyone was closer together," said Faith.

"That was probably the best feeling there."

The Galonskis said they were first asked about going on the trip by their mother, Mary Anne, as they both fell in the requisite age range of 16-35.

And for Bobby, the motivation was clear.

"We don't know how long (the Pope) is going to be around, and the next World Youth Day is in Germany in 2005, and who knows if we'd get to go then," he said.

That the Pope made the journey to Toronto to be a part of the event was inspiration enough, Bobby said.

"Having him there to do the Mass, that was probably the biggest thing since he's getting up in age and his health is dwindling; just having him have the determination to show up for the kids and do it," said Bobby.

For Faith, the most encouragement came in the way that the gargantuan congregation remained undaunted by the rain.

"At 6 a.m. we all woke up to rain falling on us," said Faith, who slept out under the open sky. "Some people built tents from tarps that they brought, but we just brought sleeping bags and ponchos and garbage bags to put all our stuff in to keep it dry.

"You'd think the rain would make everyone be in a bad mood, but it just brought us closer together."

This local group was among 900 from the Pittsburgh region taking part in the weeklong gathering, which featured three public appearances by the Pope John Paul II, who initiated the event in 1984.

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